Thursday, November 21, 2013

What I've Read This Week Special Edition: Victorian Mysteries

What I've Read This Week Special Edition: Victorian Mysteries by Emily Brightwell

Mrs. Jeffries Questions the Answer

Chief Inspector Barrows is having dinner at the home of a friend when he learns of a robbery and murder in the neighborhood. He takes one look at the crime scene and determines it wasn't the work of a professional thief but a case of cold blooded murder made to look like a burglary. Nevertheless, he's forced to put Inspector Nivens on the case because Scotland Yard is facing criticism for not solving the Jack the Ripper murder case. The Chief Inspector also puts Inspector Witherspoon on the job too. The victim, Hannah Cameron, wasn't well liked but she didn't deserve to be murdered. There are no chief suspects in this case; There's the husband, a poor businessman always in need of money; the half-brother, also in need of money; the friend who has her sights set on marrying Mr. Cameron; the governess, a poor relation and Dr. Reese, a kind man who has his practice in the East End. Any one of them could be the killer and Mrs. Jeffries, Betsy, Smythe, Wiggins, Mrs. Goodge, Luty Belle Crookshank and Hatchet won't rest until they solve the mystery. This case is extra difficult because Mrs. Goodge has an elderly relative staying with them preventing her from getting gossip from her sources. Also, Mrs. Jeffries and staff must be very careful investigating because Inspector Nivens is suspicious.The reader is a given clues in the opening scene as we witness the murder. This scene kept me so interested I couldn't put the book down. I couldn't figure out who did it or why. There's a big twist I sort of suspected but was surprised to discover. It didn't really make a lot of sense. This story is low on action though. There's a lot of talking - talking to discover clues and talking to share information. There's a little bit of personal content with the staff especially Smythe who has a secret, and Betsy who seems to be competing with Smythe for some reason. Wiggins adds some comic relief but mostly this story is about the mystery.This one isn't the best of the series but I enjoy the light, fluffy nature of them. 

Mrs. Jeffries Takes Stock
A shady American businessman Jake Randall is found floating in the Thames with a bullet wound in his chest. Inspector Nivens is supposed to take the next murder case but he's prevented from doing so because he had business dealings with the victim. Inspector Witherspoon (and staff) is back on the job. Naturally, one of the men who invested in a Colorado silver mine must be the murderer, but which one? Inspector Witherspoon thinks if he can find the gun, he can find the suspect. The servants realize the case is more complicated and set out to probe their sources for more information. Their search takes some of them on a journey to their pasts which brings up unhappy memories. The mystery follows the usual pattern. I guessed who did it pretty easily. It seemed fairly obvious to me, not glaringly so, but if Mrs. Jeffries had been a fly on the wall during Inspector Witherspoon's investigation, she could have told him. Of course she wouldn't dream of accusing someone without proof but the character's actions seemed to give them away in my mind. There are some really cute moments with Fred, the mongrel dog and Wiggins the young footman. I always love a charming dog. There's nothing really outstanding or memorable about this story and it didn't really grab me and suck me in. I was able to put it down and return to it later.

Mrs. Jeffries on the Trail
A flower seller named Annie Shields is found dead in Hyde Park on an especially foggy night when not many were about. Inspector Witherspoon hopes it's a case of burglary, but even though Annie's opal ring is missing, her wedding ring remains. Poor Inspector Witherspoon is back on the job. This time though, he's not too upset at being assigned the case for some of his investments took a hit and he feels he could use the money. To save a few pennies, he institutes a household management scheme. The servants aren't too happy about it but Mrs. Jeffries assures them all will be well in time. She and Mrs. Goodge cook up a plan to return the household to normal. The servants turn this case into a battle of the sexes after an argument about radical politics. The women, including Luty Crookshank, believe women to be the equal of men. Whoever solves the mystery first will prove their smarts. A wealthy person is kicking up a dust demanding Inspector Witherspoon solve the murder. It seems as if Annie meant something special to this person. The servants are easily able to obtain information since the deceased was one of their own class. Betsy, especially, has a larger role in this story and some of her dark past is revealed. Before the murder is solved, a child must be located and placed in safety and wealthy family secrets revealed. There were any number of people who have a motive. Mrs. Jeffries takes advantage of a new source and finds an unexpected ally. Will she figure out which one actually did it before it's too late? I really liked this mystery. It's firmly rooted specifically in late Victorian England. There is a nice discussion of politics and current events in addition to the period details about working class women on the streets. Of course the flower seller in Covent Garden made me think of Eliza Doolittle, but this story is much more gritty and realistic than the fairy tale musical. The mystery is interesting because there are so many suspects. Their stories are revealed slowly and the reader is never certain whether it was one of them or someone else entirely. There's some good action in the novel and not so much talking as in some of the others. I did figure out who it was. I guessed at first but then I knew for sure at the end when a certain clue was revealed. I couldn't have guessed how since that person had an alibi. I stayed up really late speed reading until I finished the mystery. It seems like it's really improbable and not very historically accurate though. This is one of the better mysteries. I do intend to read as many as I can since they're a pleasant diversion.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.